Stab Magazine | Slater And Medina Rule The Best Pipe Masters Day In Years

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Slater And Medina Rule The Best Pipe Masters Day In Years

After huge performances from Wilson and Medina, the World Title race will be decided on finals day. 

news // Dec 18, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 11 minutes

“Filipe isn’t very comfortable in these types of waves,” said Ross Williams, before the opening heat of the Billabong Pipeline Masters, Round 2.  “But this is his chance to prove everybody wrong.”

Overnight the swell had tripled on the North Shore, with long, north-northwest lines stretching across the historic strip of sand. While many believed the waves would be too big to run the event today, the angle of the swell was shadowed ever so slightly at Pipe, making it cap on the Third Reef without washing through the lineup.

After Kelly Slater nearly escaped an impossible Backdoor drainer in the morning freesurf, there was no question about it: The Pipe Masters were on.

And Filipe Toledo was the first heat in the water.

“Filipe’s eyes were bloodshot red this morning. He didn’t sleep a wink last night,” Strider said, backing up Ross’s earlier assertion. “He did have a big chat with Kelly this morning though, with Kelly telling him what he needs to do out here.”

Considering Filipe was up against Pipe specialist and local wildcard, Benji Brand, the Brazilian Title hopeful would need all the help he could get.

toledo f3066 Pipe18 Heff

Fin did his damnedest on this morning number.

In the opening stanza, Filipe got on Benji’s inside and swooped into the best wave we’ve ever seen him get at Pipe. The judges deemed it an eight – a tad high for the first wave of the day, but a great effort on Fil’s part.

Benji chipped away at the lead and eventually stole it from Toledo, who was fighting to keep his World Title hopes alive. Needing a high-three, with just seconds on the clock, Fil slipped into a smaller left and dragged his bony ass into the wall, milking four seconds out of a tube that only looked to offer two. Judges appreciated the effort and deemed it a mid-four. Filipe survived the heat and, while not blowing the doors off Pipeline, showed significant progress from his Round 1 massacre.

In the post-heat presser, Rosie asked Fil if he was feeling the pressure this morning.

“Feeling pressure for the past month, more like [laughs]. It’s been a tough month for me, with lots of ups and downs, but I’m happy to be here and have my family behind me.”

Seth Moniz threaded a barrel into a very nimble air (on a 6’4!) to slide past perennial-Pipe fave Owen Wright; he would face Gabriel Medina in Round 3.

The next few heats were very slow. Then Slater paddled out.

slater k9283PIPE18cestari mm

What this man does at Pipeline is generally remarkable. That he does it at 46 is another thing entirely.

Facing a hibernation-ready Panda in Round 2, Slater was toying with Pipe and Backdoor on his 6’3 Tokoro x Firewire Hawaii collab. His first wave, a squeaky left tube, put the stitches argument to rest (Slater suffered a “fin chop” yesterday on his right hand, which he uses for grabbing the rail when backside barrel-riding).

Slater proceeded to nearly make several Backdoor screamers, many times bodysurfing out of the tube after being clipped by a chandelier. He was a pig in proverbial shit, cruising around the Pipe lineup and sliding through any hole that would have him. Meanwhile Panda suffered a hilarious tumble on the best wave of the heat, resulting in his swift and utter elimination. 

“Uhhhh, dang.” Kelly said when asked about being seeded in Fil’s Round 3 heat “I kinda wanted to stay out of [the World Title race] for another round.”

“Filipe is everyone’s favorite surfer,” Ross Williams chimed in. “Everybody loves Julian and Gab too, but nobody wants to get in Filipe’s way.”

callinan r9353PIPE18cestari mm

This looks fun, until you go back and watch the drop it took to get here. 

While Ryan Callinan gathered a handful of fun Pipe waves and threaded them with a grin, Ace Buchan, the ever-savvy competitor from Avoca Beach, Aus, waited forever with priority then wasted it on a three-foot burger.

“That was the dumbest thing Ace has ever done,” said a voice from the Stab house crowd.

Probably true.

Meanwhile, Ryan Callinan further solidified his Tour-worthiness with a nine, a seven, and an incredible no-make. He would face Italo Ferreira in Round 3.

crowd0326PIPE18cestari mm

Where’s Wally?

Leaving the safety and comfort of Stab’s V-Land abode, I made my way down to the event site to watch the competition live. In doing so, I forefrited my ability to glean helpful insights from the webcast, including but not limited to: post-heat chats and insider info from commentators, judges, Commissioners, and the like.

Assuming our readers caught that info from their own obsessive viewing of the ‘cast, here’s some first-hand findings from the waterline… aaaand occasionally just beyond the water-line.

Rogue waves have been known to sweep the non-wary Pipeline spectator, and this humble scribe is not immune to the ocean’s quick and merciless power.


Screen Shot 2018 12 16 at 9.30.26 PM

Yes, my toes got wet.


Big rips, and so much sand. That’s what going to the beach revealed about Mother Pipeline.

Without seeing these phenomena in person, it would be impossible to understand how difficult today’s lineup was to navigate. Most rights were too big to hit the reef properly, while Pipe waves closed out on the sandbar. Rips ran through the lineup and swells hit from completely different angles. It was generally chaotic, but gems were there to be mined.  

Frederico Moráis needed a menial score to win his round two match against Connor O’Leary. In the dying seconds, Federico pulled into a textbook Pipe tube and…somehow…didn’t make it. Maybe it was the lingering ankle injury, but it seemed impossible for Fred not to fly into the channel. With this fall he was ousted the event, which matters because at number 21 on the CT rankings, he’s in a position to be usurped by some low-lying hero.


morais f9771PIPE18cestari mm

With this loss, Fred is almost definitely outside the CT top-22.

You know, like Joan Duru.

Sitting in 23rd on the CT rankings, the Frenchman must have been grinning when he saw his Round 2 heat draw. Tomas Hermès, the diminutive Brazilian, is a joy to watch in small, rippable surf, but in 10 foot Pipe he’s less useful than M-Rod at finishing an acai bowl. Joan trounced the poor sap on his way to a Round 3 berth, bringing him one step closer to a last-ditch requalification.

**Midday beach update: a female spectator just cooked her Macbook in a crowd-washing set. I want to feel bad, but man, at some point you’ve gotta let natural selection run its course. Because first of all, who brings their computer to the beach? And second, of the people who bring their computer to the beach, who the hell sits on the water’s edge with their computer exposed to the elements? I digress.**

Before I knew it Callinan was back in the water, this time facing Italo Ferreira in Round 3. Much like in his first heat, R-Cal treated the Pipe sandbar like a fun day at his homebreak. (Seriously, did you see that edit Ryan put out last week? Does the Newcastle section not look eerily reminiscent to today’s sand-covered Masters?) He smoked the hams off an on-fire Italo who just couldn’t find the right wave today.

ferreira i9903PIPE18cestari mm

A bad day for Italo, but a season to be proud of.

Jordy Smith, Round 3, Heat 2, Wave 1. Can somebody explain how the 6’3 South African got so damn compressed to his surfboard on this end section slam? Jordy’s knees should have buckled in three, but instead he embraced the pressure and rode out past the whitewater. Beyond this, Jordy’s become visibly more comfortable in large, tubing lefts, which is both the effect and cause of his recent house purchase at Log Cabins. He’ll be a bigger threat in 2019 because of it.

**Just-past-midday beach update: COMPUTER GIRL GOT RINSED AGAIN. I REPEAT: Computer girl, and her computer, just got hit by another crowd-sweeping set. This is truly incredible. So incredible that I had to take a photo (below). Again, this is the second time her computer has been submerged by a rogue set. Remarkable!**

Screen Shot 2018 12 16 at 9.41.33 PM

You poor thing.

Conner Coffin had to jump off a three-story building to protect his Round 3 lead.

“My nuts almost exploded on impact,” Conner said after the heat.

Considering what Parko said about Conner’s “ground game” in his recent retiree interview, we’ll have to hope that those grapes heal up soon.

On the other hand, and after a memorable nine years on Tour, Conner’s win means that Matty Wilko has officially fallen off the CT.

Will he return to the Q, or spend the rest of his life reliving those remarkable ‘16/17 seasons? Only time will tell.


How we’ll remember Willy. Photo: Rip Curl


Sitting on the beach, it became apparent that the swell was turning more west and becoming cleaner. Sets started filtering in from Rockpile rather than Pupes; the ocean surface became more crystal blue, less milky white.

Perhaps because of this, or perhaps not, Griffin Colapinto went on the first legitimate right in a long while. He was never going to make this wave, but trying was notable in and of itself. He followed that up with an even more dramatic left, from which he also failed to escape.

You get the sense that this kid really loves what he does, and that he’s certainly not scared. His loss to Seabass was unfortunate, but unless something drastic happens he should retain his top-22 seeding come Pipe’s end (as Jack Freestone surely hopes).

Colapinto DX23538 Pipe18 Sloane

The left.

Out next was the man of the hour, and most likely the year, Gabriel Medina.

At the beginning of his heat, Medina took of on a lumpy, ugly looking left with an over-vert drop. Holding on by his cuticles, Medina slipped under the lip and drove through multiple chandeliers before getting clamped by the doggy door. He got a three for the effort, which speaks to Medina’s robust ability.

Truthfully, in watching Medina live, the performance gap between he and his peers becomes abundantly clear.

Nonetheless his opponent, Hawaii’s Seth Moniz, wouldn’t be intimidated. Seth scored a clean Backdoor runner under priority, resulting in a mid-six and the lead.

Then Medina got another ugly looking left. He stalled hard off the bottom, disappeared behind the partition and came out with the spit. The crowd cheered louder than they had all day.

Fuck this guy is good.

Seth took the lead back with a clean Pipe wedge.

Medina took it back again with a deep fade into a long, running left.

Fuck, this guy is good!

Medina DX23488 Pipe18 Sloane

A freak of the highest order.

Medina finished the heat on top, which would make life harder for Jules and Filipe, who already need a finals finish to have a chance at stealing the Title.


This desperation showed in Julian Wilson, who packed a massive Backdoor bomb at the start of his Round 3 heat.

The wave was so big that it missed the end of the reef, culminating in a massive chandelier that compressed Wilson into oblivion. Later on he got another Backdoor barrel, this one slightly smaller, and made it out the end. Then he packed a third – again, no dice – and this one sent him to the beach.

With Wilson stuck inside, Pupo slipped a small left for 5 points, after which he only needed a two-something to win. With one last effort, Miguel got clamped and Julian survived.

The Title Race will live to see another day.

wilson j0097PIPE18cestari mm

We can’t imagine Julian will sleep much tonight.

Here are some notes from the next couple heats:

  • Parko packed a beefy Backdoor wall and squeaked out the bottom. 8.77 and the heat win, which keep him alive in the Triple Crown race.

  • Wade Carmichael needs to put in some work at Pipeline. Number seven in the world, a big fat zero out here. By default, Jesse Mendes also keeps his Triple Crown hopes alive. 

  • M-Rod had an incredible number of security guards in tow as he walked down the beach. I counted five. His competitor, Joan Duru, had zero.

  • Speaking of the Frenchman, he made it to Round 4 today, which pushes him to a minimum of 20,210 points on the season. As of now, that’s good enough to qualify. We’ll see if it lasts.

slater k0616PIPE18cestari mm

All hail Slater.

Finally, Filipe and Kelly hit the water.

If you’ve made it through this novela of a comp wrap, you’ll remember Slater saying “Uhhhh, dang,” when he heard he’d be facing Filipe in Round 3. “I kinda wanted to stay out of [the World Title race] for another round,” Slater concluded.

And Kelly, you’ll remember, is as masterful at Pipeline as one can be.

In its 48 years of existence, Slater has surfed in 28 Pipeline Masters, finaling in 13 of them and winning seven. Today he demonstrated that innate knowledge and ability.

Rather than taking the hard competitive route, Slater was toying with waves – fading, kick-stalls under the lip; no-hand backside tubes; the works. While Filipe sat out the back with priority, Slater played slap-ass with himself on the inside.

Then it came.

A band of energy described by the beach announcer as a “perfect Pipeline wave” approached the lineup, and despite sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with Slater, Filipe baulked.

Under Fil’s priority, Kelly flipped and stroked into the warping peak, grabbing his rail and pulling up under the hook before the lip could clamp him. After getting bounced by the foamball, Slater lost control and bodysurfed off his board, somehow managing to wrangle it back under his body, belly-ride out of the tube and pop back up to his feet.

It was one of the most incredible feats in surfing history and the judges gave it a three.

They nailed that fucking score, too. A fall is a fall regardless of how remarkable the recovery. Please internet, let this not be another 4.17 Slater-gate.

But back to the point: what was Filipe thinking? That was clearly a great wave, and he was in just the spot to catch it. If not fear, then what held Brazil’s small-wave supertalent back?

Filipe ended up going on a similar-looking wave shortly after, but he was too far in front of it.

Now holding priority, the 11x champ, or 7x if we’re talking Pipe Masters, two-stroked into a Backdoor gem and came out after the spit – eight points.

Filipe followed Slater with an even bigger, better tube but was tripped on his escape. It was a valiant effort, but to no avail. Filipe never got back out, and Slater won with a combination lead.

Filipe returned to the beach and waited for Slater to join him. After a brief hug and a few sweet words shared, Filipe turned back to the sea and soaked in the moment.

Screen Shot 2018 12 16 at 10.07.34 PM

Teary-eyed, Fil eventually returned to the reality of the shore.

This is the second time Filipe has lost the World Title at Pipe. But it’s the first time it felt real. He could have actually won it in 2018.

If one or two or ten things went differently.

Billabong Pipe Masters Round 2 Results:
Heat 1:
 Filipe Toledo (BRA) 12.70 def. Benji Brand (HAW) 11.76
Heat 2: Seth Moniz (HAW) 12.77 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 10.00
Heat 3: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 2.93 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 1.36
Heat 4: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 5.16 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 4.06
Heat 5: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 10.06 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 5.00
Heat 6: Kelly Slater (USA) 8.00 def. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 1.63
Heat 7: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 16.84 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 6.10
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 5.56 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 1.90
Heat 9: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 5.40 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 3.93
Heat 10: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 4.27 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 3.83
Heat 11: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 6.17 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 2.47
Heat 12: Joan Duru (FRA) 16.60 def. Tomas Hermes (BRA) 1.26

Billabong Pipe Masters Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 8.77 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 2.43
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 10.16 def. Michael February (ZAF) 2.56
Heat 3: Conner Coffin (USA) 13.00 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 6.40
Heat 4: Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.70 def. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 7.36
Heat 5: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 8.00 def. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 5.24
Heat 6: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.30 def. Seth Moniz (HAW) 11.83
Heat 7: Yago Dora (BRA) 5.27 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 2.64
Heat 8: Julian Wilson (AUS) 8.43 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 7.00
Heat 9: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.20 def. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 1.10
Heat 10: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 7.17 def. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 2.84
Heat 11: Joan Duru (FRA) 8.20 def. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 4.86
Heat 12: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.60 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 6.77

Billabong Pipe Masters Round 4 Matchups:
Heat 1: Ryan Callinan (AUS), Jordy Smith (ZAF), Conner Coffin (USA) 
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Gabriel Medina (BRA) 
Heat 3: Yago Dora (BRA), Julian Wilson (AUS), Joel Parkinson (AUS) 
Heat 4: Jesse Mendes (BRA), Joan Duru (FRA), Kelly Slater (USA) 


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